Celebrating Northern Europe’s Automation Engineers Engineering.

08/12/2017

NIDays welcomed hundreds of delegates from across Northern Europe to the historic Sandown Park Racecourse in England in November 2017, for its annual conference and exhibition. Each event was designed to educate and inspire the engineering community. Delegates to NIDays were given exclusive access to innovative technologies and could explore NI’s latest software, in a full day of keynote speeches, technical presentations and hands-on sessions.

Northern European Engineering Impact Awards
The night before, some of Northern Europe’s best engineers attended the prestigious Engineering Impact Awards.  The well-respected Engineering Impact Awards celebrated the most innovative engineering applications based on NI hardware and software.

Coventry University’s Dr Bo Tan won ‘Application of the Year’ for his system that combines passive WiFi sensing hardware and machine learning algorithms to monitor the health, activity and well-being of patients within nursing homes, allowing staff to improve their levels of efficiency and care.

Other winners include:

Advanced Manufacturing: Paving the Way for Industry 4.0 with Smart, Reconfigurable Manufacturing Machines
Biomedical: Combining Passive WiFi Sensing and Machine Learning Systems to Monitor Health, Activity and Well-Being within Nursing Homes
Education: Teaching Electronics to the Next Generation of Engineers using VirtualBench
Innovative Research: Unlocking Fusion Energy – Our Path to a Sustainable Future
Test and Validation: Saab Elevates Testing of the World’s Most Cost-Effective Fighter Plane
Wireless Communication: Using the LabVIEW Communications System Design Suite to Increase Spectral Efficiency for Wireless Communication

“The Northern European EIA’s were incredible this year. The breadth of applications showed what our products can do in the hands of world-class scientists and engineers!” says Dave Wilson, Vice President – Product Marketing for Software, Academia and Customer Education.

NIDays
Professors, researchers and design engineers were amongst the audience of the morning keynote ‘Testing and Deploying the Next Generation of Technology’ hosted by NI VP Dave Wilson. In this session, NI experts explained how the NI platform is accelerating innovation in applications ranging from transportation safety to the IoT.

During the afternoon keynote, Stuart Dawson, Chief Technology Officer at the University of Sheffield’s (GB) Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) was welcomed to the stage to discuss how super-trends like Industry 4.0, energy and the electrification of transportation are changing the way we live and work. Charlotte Nicolaou, Software Field Marketing Engineer, walked through how NI are continuing the LabVIEW legacy with the evolution of the world’s most productive and efficient engineering software, introducing LabVIEW NXG 2.0 and other new software releases including NI Package Manager.

Delegates had a chance to ‘dirty their hands!’

Delegates also had the opportunity to view application specific demonstrations that showcased the latest NI products and technology in the Expo Area, with plenty of NI engineers on hand to discuss their engineering challenges and technical questions. Participants also enjoyed an array of track sessions that included LabVIEW Power Programming and Test & RF Hands-On, giving users the opportunity to learn practical skills and network with specialists and peers.

Throughout the day, several guest presenters took to the stage including Jeff Morgan and Garret O’Donnell of Trinity College Dublin (IRL) and Niklas Krakau from Saab Aeronautics who discussed their incredible application enabling efficient testing of the world’s most cost-effective fighter plane, the Saab Gripen E.

Attentive Audience!

“NIDays allows us to highlight game-changing industry trends, whilst unveiling new, innovative technologies. However, it is the attendees, presenters, partners and exhibitors that provide the conference’s true highlights. What was my favourite part of the day? Learning how Coventry University is using WiFi signals to wirelessly monitor patient health through-walls? Meeting elite researchers and heads of industry during the dedicated networking sessions? Taking a tour of Cardiff University’s historic race car? Or sampling a ‘perfect pint’ of ale, courtesy of the robot bartender from Leeds University? NIDays was packed with inspiring moments and experiences that I will remember for a long, long time to come” says Richard Roberts, Senior Academic Technical Marketing Engineer.

12 exhibitors joined the lively atmosphere of the main exhibition hall, including Amfax, Austin Consultants and The Formula Student Silverstone 2017 winners, Cardiff Racing, who proudly displayed their history making Formula 1 car. Many more NI customers and partners filled the hall with their impressive applications, some of which won awards at the Engineering Impact Awards the previous evening.

@NIukie #PAuto #TandM #NIDays @NIglobal
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Simulating the Effect of Climate Change on Agriculture.

01/12/2017
Increased atmospheric CO2 levels and climate change are believed to contribute to extreme weather conditions, which is a major concern for many. And beyond extreme events, global warming is also predicted to affect agriculture.1,2

While climate change is expected to affect agriculture and reduce crop yields, the complete effects of climate change on agriculture and the resultant human food supplies are yet to be fully understood.2,3,4

Simulating a Changing Climate
In order to understand how changes in CO2, temperature and water availability caused by climate change have an impact on crop growth and food availability, Researchers often use controlled growth chambers to grow plants in conditions that mimic the predicted atmospheric conditions at the end of the century. These controlled growth chambers enable precise control of temperature, CO2 levels, humidity, water availability, light quality and soil quality, allowing Scientists to study how plant growth changes in response to elevated temperatures, elevated CO2 levels and altered water availability.

However, plant growth / behaviour in the field considerably varies from in growth chambers. Owing to differences in light intensity, light quality, evaporative demand, temperature fluctuations and other abiotic and biotic stress factors, the growth of plants in tiny, controlled growth chambers does not always sufficiently reflect plant growth in the field. Moreover, the less realistic the experimental conditions used during simulation experiments of climate change, the less likely the resultant predictions will reflect reality.4

Several attempts have been made over the past 30 years to more closely stimulate climate change growing scenarios including free air CO2 enrichment, open top chambers, free air temperature increases and temperature gradient tunnels, although all these methods are known to have major disadvantages. For instance, chamber-less CO2 exposure systems do not enable stringent control of gas concentrations, while other systems suffer from “chamber effects” such as changes in humidity, wind velocity, temperature, soil quality and light quality.4,5

Spanish Researchers have recently reported temperature gradient greenhouses and growth chamber greenhouses, which are specifically designed to remove some of the disadvantages of simulating the effects of climate change on crop growth in growth chambers. An article reporting their methodology was featured in Plant Science in 2014, describing how the Researchers used temperature gradient greenhouses and growth chamber greenhouses to simulate climate change conditions and study plant responses.4

Choosing the Right Growth Chamber
Compared to traditional growth chambers, temperature gradient greenhouses and controlled growth chambers offer increased working area, allowing them to work as greenhouses without the necessity for isolation panels while still allowing precise control of various environmental factors such as temperature, CO2 concentration and water availability.

Researchers have used these greenhouses to investigate the potential effects of climate change on the growth of grapevine, alfalfa and lettuce.

CO2 Sensors for Climate Change Research
Researchers investigating the effects of climate change on plant growth using greenhouses or growth chambers will require highly accurate CO2 measurements.

The Spanish Researchers used Edinburgh Sensors Guardian sensor in their greenhouses to provide accurate and reliable CO2measurements. As a customer-focused provider of high-quality gas sensing solutions, Edinburgh Sensors has been delivering gas sensors to the research community since the 1980s.4,6

The Guardian NG from Edinburgh Sensors
The Edinburgh Sensors Guardian NG provides precise CO2 measurements in research greenhouses simulating climate change scenarios. The sensor provides near-analyser quality continuous measurement of CO2 concentrations, operates in temperatures of 0-45 °C and relative humidity of 0-95%, and has a CO2 detection range of 0 to 3000 ppm. These features make Guardian NG suitable for use in greenhouses with conditions meant to simulate climate change scenarios.

In addition, the Guardian NG can be easily installed as a stand-alone product in greenhouses to measure CO2, or in tandem with CO2 controllers as done by the Spanish Researchers in their temperature gradient and growth control greenhouses.4,6

Conclusions
In order to understand the potential effects of climate change on plant growth and crop yields, it is important to simulate climate change scenarios in elevated CO2 concentrations. For such studies, accurate CO2 concentration measurements are very important.

References

@Edinst #agriculture

Quality Managers are the Leaders!

09/10/2017
Jennifer Sillars, Product Marketing Executive for Ideagen tells why quality managers are the leaders that manufacturing needs.

Having previously worked in business intelligence for Ideagen, Jennifer Sillars brings a passion for data driven decision making to the realms of quality, compliance, audit and risk. As Product Marketing Executive at Ideagen, Jennifer’s key objectives are to understand how customers use Ideagen’s software and how the company can better serve them in their GRC challenges.

Jennifer Sillars, – Ideagen

Companies are becoming more aggressive in their financial goals, with cost cutting being the mantra for many years. Indeed, in some organisations, when all the obvious cuts have been made, making the less obvious ones can begin to jeopardise the smooth-running of the business.

In Manufacturing, we see an industry under pressure. An industry trying to do more with less. A more proactive approach is needed now to break out of this cycle of simply fulfilling demand. While it may seem unlikely to some, your Quality Manager or Quality Director, is in the perfect position to guide this strategy.

Reason One – A focus that is principled and positive
Quality leaders are focused on…quality. By this I mean customer satisfaction and reputation building are inherent in their goals. ‘Quality’ often means meeting the customer requirements or meeting safety objectives. They are high integrity individuals who make analytical decisions based on fact and with no hidden motive. It is this type of input that is needed when difficult choices have to be taken.

John Burrows – HepcoMotion

HepcoMotion, a manufacturer of linear motion systems and automation components, is an example of a company who lead with quality. As HepcoMotion manufacture everything in-house, no responsibility for quality can be delegated away. John Burrows, Group Quality Manager, defines his job as “ensuring that our customers get the best possible products.” In industries striving for blocked out order books filled with repeat business, the Quality department’s smooth operation can make this a reality.

Quality departments are often unfairly profiled as the inspector who comes in looking for problems at the end of a project. The truth behind this is that quality leaders, like John Burrows, believe the company can achieve greatness. So, if something goes wrong, there is a process or control that needs to be fixed. John is trusted at an operational level as someone to turn to when an issue is found. Leading from the front like this allows issues to be addressed earlier in the manufacturing process, instead of hidden from the inspector.

Reason Two – Business intelligence in non-conformances
They understand how the business runs. They know the small details, the daily struggles as well as the big picture strategic goals. They work beyond silos to understand the internal processes that take requirements and turn them in to commercial products. This gives Quality Managers a deep understanding of where things can, and do, go wrong. They see where the trends are that provide opportunities for improvement. Quality leaders track non-conformances and the cost of these issues.

“The ability to cost Corrective Action Preventative Action (CAPA’s) allows me to highlight areas that require attention,” John continues: “where costs have been accrued from a variety of different reasons (work in progress, customer issues, final inspection issues for example). This gives us a much better picture of particular products that may require different processes or additional inspections. We can easily add costs of re-work, extra inspections etc. to an issue and so can get an accurate picture of what it has cost the business.”

This is the kind of data-driven decision making that all companies are striving for. Executives often overlook the Quality department as a partner in business intelligence. HepcoMotion have made great efforts to improve reporting and analysis, keeping in mind the strategic needs of the company.

Reason Three – A stabilising force
In many companies, each location operates within its own rules and business constraints with little sharing of best practices. Each location focuses on optimisation. In itself a worthwhile activity that can have significant cost saving benefits, however at the public level it may not be enough to make an impact.

In a competitive market customers put a premium on suppliers that they can rely on. Reliability and repeatability are fundamental goals within the quality leader’s principled and positive focus. It is part of “ensuring that our customers get the best possible products”, as John says. When every customer knows they will get exactly what they need, orders grow. The wider market notices and the effects are transformative.

When sub-contracting part of the manufacture to suppliers, a part of the burden of reliability is taken. This is as long as you have chosen wisely, set the requirements and been realistic with lead times. The situation is different where you are the sole provider. This is the position that HepcoMotion is in as they do all their manufacturing in-house.

In recent years John’s day to day focus has shifted as HepcoMotion adapt to deal with demand. Downtime is minimal and many of their machines run 24/7. Their order books are full; their focus on quality is undoubtedly a contributing factor. Customers expect the “HepcoMotion” standard, not the standard of a particular site. John Burrows understands that it takes more than a written policy to ensure success. For that reason, John spends increasing amounts of time at different manufacturing sites engaging people and establishing a true Group-wide approach to quality.

Because when the reputation for quality and reliability is built, the impact of failing to meet a customer’s expectation in a single instance can be devastating.

It is for these reasons that Quality Managers are the leaders that manufacturing needs.

@Ideagen_Plc #PAuto @HepcoMotion

World’s first LiFi enabled light bar!

21/09/2017
Mainstream adoption of LiFi will be available within LED light bars which will replace the most widely utilized light source in the world – fluorescent tubes.

The introduction of the first LED “light bar” is forecasted to replace the most conventional form of lighting within commercial and industrial facilities: fluorescent tubes; with an estimated 3-4 billion installed throughout the world.

pureLiFi and Linmore LED will demonstrate this new technology at LuxLive from the 15-16th of November 2017 (London GB) as part of their LiFi experience zone.

WiFi versus LiFi

Wireless connectivity is evolving. The spectrum now has to accommodate more mobile users and is forecasted to increase to 20 Billion devices (forming the IoT) by the year 2020 which will result in what is known as the Spectrum Crunch. However, LiFi can open up 1000 times more spectrum for wireless communications to combat this phenomenon.  LiFi is a transformative technology changing the way we connect to the Internet by using the same light we use to illuminate our offices, home and streets.

Integration of LiFi within LED strip lights will drive mass adoption, enabling LiFi to easily move into full-scale implementation within offices, schools, warehouses and anywhere illumination is required.

Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi says: “This partnership marks a step change for LiFi adoption. We can now offer new solutions that will help industry, future proof their spaces, devices and technology to ensure they are ready to cope with the increased demand for highspeed, secure and mobile wireless communications.”

LiFi utilizes LED lights that illuminate both our workspace and homes to transmit high-speed, bi-directional, secure and fully networked wireless internet.

What is LiFi
LiFi is high speed bi-directional networked and mobile communication of data using light. LiFi comprises of multiple light bulbs that form a wireless network, offering a substantially similar user experience to Wi-Fi except using the light spectrum.

Lighting manufacturers are important players in the adoption of LiFi technology. Linmore LED has built its reputation in the retrofit market, and they ensure their portfolio of LED products perform in the top 1% for energy efficiency in the industry.

Retrofit fixtures are in great demand as many facilities seek to drive down energy costs by as much as 70-80% which can be achieved by converting to LED technology. This trend is also driven by the increased operating life that LEDs provide and the concerns of toxic mercury utilized within fluorescent lamps that complicates disposal. This provides a scenario where building owners and facility managers can adopt LiFi technology while dramatically decreasing lighting-related energy costs at the same time.

Paul Chamberlain, CEO of Linmore LED says: “Utilizing an existing part of a building’s infrastructure – lighting – opens up endless possibilities for many other technologies to have a deployment backbone.  Internet of Things (IoT), RFID, product and people movement systems, facility maintenance, and a host of other technologies are taken to the next level with LiFi available throughout a facility.”

John Gilmore, Linmore’s VP of Sales talks about early adopters of the technology: “We’re very excited to be aligning ourselves with pure LiFi. We firmly believe the US Government will be an early adopter of this technology. Our position on GSA schedule will help buyers be able to easily access the technology.”

LiFi offers lighting innovators the opportunity to enter new markets and drive completely new sources of revenue by providing wireless communications systems. LiFi is a game changer not only for the communications industry but also for the lighting industry, and with LiFi, Linmore certainly has a brighter future. 

@purelifi #Pauto @LinmoreLED ‏#bes

Simulating agricultural climate change scenarios.

19/09/2017
Extreme weather, believed to result from climate change and increased atmospheric CO2 levels, is a concern for many. And beyond extreme events, global warming is also expected to impact agriculture.(Charlotte Observer, 7 Sept 2017)

Although it is expected that climate change will significantly affect agriculture and cause decreases in crop yields, the full effects of climate change on agriculture and human food supplies are not yet understood. (1, 2 & 3 below)

Simulating a Changing Climate
To fully understand the effects that changes in temperature, CO2, and water availability caused by climate change may have on crop growth and food availability, scientists often employ controlled growth chambers to grow plants in conditions that simulate the expected atmospheric conditions at the end of the century. Growth chambers enable precise control of CO2 levels, temperature, water availability, humidity, soil quality and light quality, enabling researchers to study how plant growth changes in elevated CO2 levels, elevated temperatures, and altered water availability.

However, plant behavior in the field often differs significantly from in growth chambers. Due to differences in light quality, light intensity, temperature fluctuations, evaporative demand, and other biotic and abiotic stress factors, the growth of plants in small, controlled growth chambers doesn’t always adequately reflect plant growth in the field and the less realistic the experimental conditions used during climate change simulation experiments, the less likely the resultant predictions will reflect reality.3

Over the past 30 years, there have been several attempts to more closely simulate climate change growing scenarios including open top chambers, free air CO2 enrichment, temperature gradient tunnels and free air temperature increases, though each of these methods has significant drawbacks.

For example, chamber-less CO2 exposure systems do not allow rigorous control of gas concentrations, while other systems suffer from “chamber effects” included changes in wind velocity, humidity, temperature, light quality and soil quality.3,4

Recently, researchers in Spain have reported growth chamber greenhouses and temperature gradient greenhouses, designed to remove some of the disadvantages of simulating the effects of climate change on crop growth in growth chambers. A paper reporting their methodology was published in Plant Science in 2014 and describes how they used growth chamber greenhouses and temperature gradient greenhouses to simulate climate change scenarios and investigate plant responses.3

Choosing the Right Growth Chamber
Growth chamber and temperature gradient greenhouses offer increased working area compared with traditional growth chambers, enabling them to work as greenhouses without the need for isolation panels, while still enabling precise control of CO2 concentration, temperature, water availability, and other environmental factors.

Such greenhouses have been used to study the potential effects of climate change on the growth of lettuce, alfalfa, and grapevine.

CO2 Sensors for Climate Change Research
For researchers to study the effects of climate change on plant growth using growth chambers or greenhouses, highly accurate CO2 measurements are required.

The Spanish team used the Edinburgh Sensors Guardian sensor in their greenhouses to provide precise, reliable CO2 measurements. Edinburg Sensors is a customer-focused provider of high-quality gas sensing solutions that have been providing gas sensors to the research community since the 1980s.3,5

The Guardian NG from Edinburgh Sensors provides accurate CO2 measurements in research greenhouses mimicking climate change scenarios. The Edinburgh Sensors Guardian NG provides near-analyzer quality continuous measurement of CO2 concentrations. The CO2 detection range is 0-3000 ppm, and the sensor can operate in 0-95% relative humidity and temperatures of 0-45 °C, making it ideal for use in greenhouses with conditions intended to mimic climate change scenarios.

Furthermore, the Guardian NG is easy to install as a stand-alone product in greenhouses to measure CO2, or in combination with CO2 controllers as done by the Spanish team in their growth control and temperature gradient greenhouses.4,6 Conclusions Simulating climate change scenarios in with elevated CO2 concentrations is essential for understanding the potential effects of climate change on plant growth and crop yields. Accurate CO2 concentration measurements are essential for such studies, and the Edinburgh Sensors Guardian NG is an excellent option for researchers building research greenhouses for climate change simulation.

References

  1. Walthall CL, Hatfield J, Backlund P, et al. ‘Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation.’ USDA Technical Bulletin 1935, 2012. Available from: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=ge_at_reports
  2. https://www.co2.earth/2100-projections Accessed September 7th, 2017.
  3. Morales F, Pascual I, Sánchez-Díaz M, Aguirreolea J, Irigoyen JJ, Goicoechea N Antolín MC, Oyarzun M, Urdiain A, ‘Methodological advances: Using greenhouses to simulate climate change scenarios’ Plant Science 226:30-40, 2014.
  4. Aguirreolea J, Irigoyen JJ, Perez P, Martinez-Carrasco R, Sánchez-Díaz M, ‘The use of temperature gradient tunnels for studying the combined effect of CO2, temperature and water availability in N2 fixing alfalfa plants’ Annals of Applied Biology, 146:51-60, 2005.
  5. https://edinburghsensors.com/products/gas-monitors/guardian-ng/ Accessed September 7th, 2017.
@Edinst #PAuto #Food

Asset integrity demands special people with special approach.

28/07/2017

Staff responsible for asset integrity should be ‘cup half empty’ types; they should be intuitively sceptical and constantly expect the worst to happen because asset failure can have extremely serious safety, environmental and financial effects. In addition, these people need to possess a highly methodical, risk-based approach to asset management, with almost obsessive attention to detail.

The pressure for ageing assets to perform for extended periods has probably never been greater, so the demand for effective, reliable inspections is enormous. However, there is also pressure for this work to be as fast and efficient as possible in order to minimise down-time. The protection of asset integrity therefore relies on the availability of inspection tools that meet this demand.

As NDT Market Manager at Ashtead Technology, one of Steve Drake’s responsibilities is to ensure that the company’s fleet of rental and sale instruments meet the demands of the asset integrity testing community, so he is well placed to comment on the latest technological developments. “Many NDT technologies are high value items, so it doesn’t make financial sense to purchase this equipment for occasional use. We invest in these instruments so that our clients don’t have to. By making this equipment available for hire, we provide access to the latest technology without the burden of capital cost. But that’s not the only driver behind our investments; in addition to financial choice, we also aim to offer technology choice, which means that we continually invest in a variety of technologies so that customers can select the instrument that best suits their application.”

A further advantage of instrument rental lies with the ability to call upon technology at short notice – when existing equipment is in use elsewhere or becomes unavailable for some reason. As a result, the ability to dip into a pool of rental instruments allows asset inspectors to avoid the costs of over-tooling.

Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI)
Corrosion under insulation has long been an insidious form of corrosion because traditionally it has been difficult to measure and predict without physically removing the insulation. The potential costs of CUI are also enormous, so the launch of the Eddyfi Lyft is highly significant because it provides asset inspection and maintenance staff with a fast, reliable, flexible tool for this vital work.

The Eddyfi Lyft employs Pulsed Eddy Current (PEC) in a portable, rugged, battery-powered NDT instrument with connect-anywhere wired and wireless communications. Designed to improve the speed, ease and quality of inspections with real-time C-scan imaging, the Lyft offers fast data acquisition (up to 15 readings per second) grid-mapping and dynamic scanning modes. Three different sized standard probes and a specialised splash-zone probe enable the inspection of wall thicknesses up to 64mm, insulation up to 203mm thick (fibreglass, plastic wrap, concrete, or other non-ferrous materials), as well as stainless steel, aluminium, and galvanized steel weather jackets.

The Lyft’s unique compensated wall thickness (CWT) tool improves inspection accuracy by quantifying the minimum wall thickness of a specific region in a C-scan, and specialised algorithms isolate a defect’s contribution to the signal to more precisely compute remaining wall thickness.

The potential for CUI is greatest in marine environments, hot and humid environments, and in locations with high rainfall, aggressive atmospheres or steam tracing leaks. Intermittent wet and dry conditions, or systems that operate below the dew point can encourage CUI and some insulating materials may contain contaminants such as sulphides and chlorides, or may retain moisture, or be designed in a way that restricts moisture drainage.

In addition to CUI, applications for the Eddyfi Lyft include corrosion under fireproofing, flow-accelerated corrosion, corrosion blisters and scabs, splash zone and underwater, surface corrosion, and corrosion under coatings and at waterworks.

Corrosion Inspection
The Olympus OmniScan phased array ultrasonic systems are some of the most popular instruments in Ashtead’s entire rental fleet. The OmniScan MX2 for example increases testing efficiencies, ensuring superior manual and advanced UT performance with faster setups, test cycles, and reporting, in addition to universal compatibility with all phased array and ultrasound modules. The MX2 unit is equipped with advanced features such as the ability to use PA and UT channels simultaneously. As a modular platform, the MX2 houses more than 10 different Olympus modules and Ashtead Technology’s engineers are able to advise on the best setup for every application.

The Olympus HydroFORM corrosion mapping scanner employs an ingenious water-column concept that eliminates the need for a wedge, thereby providing the benefits of a phased array immersion-tank inspection. Designed for the detection of wall-thickness reductions due to corrosion, abrasion, and erosion the HydroFORM also detects mid-wall damage such as hydrogen-induced blistering or manufacturing-induced laminations, and can easily differentiate these anomalies from loss of wall thickness.

In applications such as corrosion mapping, delamination or defect detection in composites, bond inspection and crack detection with eddy current arrays, the Phoenix ISL Tracer freehand scanning system calculates and outputs accurate X-Y positional data for C-scan inspections without the constraints of a scanning frame. The Tracer can be used on an inspection area of up to 2m x 2m from a single position, even in difficult to access areas. Importantly, it does not lose position when the probe is lifted off the surface and then replaced, so maximum scan coverage is achieved up to and around obstructions.

The Silverwing Scorpion is a motorised magnetic inspection tool, able to inspect vertical, curved and even overhead surfaces. Designed for cost-effective A and B-scan inspections, the Scorpion is a dry-coupled UT crawler that connects with the UT Lite data acquisition instrument via a 30 meter umbilical cord. Dry coupling removes the need for a constant water supply and a magnet in front of the wheel probe removes the cost and safety issues associated with scaffolding or rope access. When combined with the UT Lite the Scorpion continuously records thickness measurements as it moves over the inspection surface. The recorded thickness information is presented in the software as an A-scan trace, a digital thickness measurement and a B-scan profile.

Steve Drake summarising said: “Every tank, pipe or vessel is different; not just in age and material of construction, but also in build and maintenance quality. The environment can also have a significant impact on the quality and integrity of an asset, as can operational conditions. It is important therefore for inspection staff to deploy the most appropriate instrumentation, which is why our customers find it so useful to be able to select from a large fleet of the latest technologies and to seek our advice when making these important choices.”

#NDT @ashteadtech  #PAuto

Measuring CO2 to optimise bulk storage of food.

24/07/2017

Meeting the food requirements of a growing global population is becoming increasingly difficult. Despite the need for additional food, it is estimated that 50-60% of grain is lost after harvesting, at a cost of about $1 trillion per year. (See note 1 below)

One of the major reasons for lost grain is spoilage due to mould or insect infestation during storage.2 To provide a constant supply of grain year-round, after grains are harvested they are often kept in long term storage. Maintaining the quality of stored grain is crucial, both to ensure the quality of the final food products, and to prevent economic losses for farmers.

Edinburgh Sensors GascardNG Sensor

Insects and moulds can grow in stored grain, and their ability to flourish depends on the temperature and moisture of the stored grain. Moulds are the most common cause of grain spoilage and can cause changes in the appearance and quality of stored grains. Some moulds can release toxic chemicals called mycotoxins which can suppress the immune system, reduce nutrient absorption, cause cancer, and even be lethal in high doses. It is therefore crucially important to prevent the presence of mycotoxins in food products.2

Monitoring Stored Grain
Farmers are advised to check their stored grain weekly for signs of spoilage.3 Traditionally, grains are checked visually and by odour. Grain sampling can allow earlier detection of insects and moulds, but these methods can be tedious and time-consuming. Rapid, simple methods are needed for early detection of spoilage and to prevent grain losses.2

When moulds and insects grow, and respire, they produce CO2, moisture and heat. Temperature sensors detect increases in temperature caused by mould growth or insect infestation, therefore indicating the presence of grain spoilage. However, they are not able to detect temperature increases caused by infestation unless the infestation is within a few meters of the sensors. CO2 sensors can detect the CO2 produced by moulds and insects during respiration. As the CO2 gas moves with air currents, CO2 sensors can detect infestations that are located further away from the sensor than temperature sensors. CO2 measurements are therefore an important part of the toolkit needed to monitor stored grain quality.2

Using CO2 Measurements to Detect Spoilage
CO2 monitoring can be used for early detection of spoilage in stored grains, and to monitor the quality of stored grains. Safe grain storage usually results in CO2 concentrations below 600 ppm, while concentrations of 600-1500 ppm indicate the onset of mould growth. CO2 concentrations above 1500 ppm indicate severe infestations and could represent the presence of mycotoxins.4

CO2 measurements can be taken easily, quickly and can detect infestations 3-5 weeks earlier than temperature monitoring. Once spoilage is detected, the manager of the storage facility can address the problem by aerating, turning, or selling the grain. Furthermore, CO2 measurements can aid in deciding which storage structure should be unloaded first.2

Research published by Purdue University and Kansas State University have confirmed that high CO2 levels detected by stationary and portable devices are associated with high levels of spoilage and the presence of mycotoxins.4,5 Furthermore, they compared the ability of temperature sensors and CO2 sensors in a storage unit filled with grain to detect the presence of a simulated ‘hot spot’ created using a water drip to encourage mould growth.

The CO2 concentration in the headspace of the storage unit showed a strong correlation with the temperature at the core of the hot spot, and the CO2 sensors were, therefore, able to detect biological activity. The temperature sensors were not able to detect the mould growth, despite being placed within 0.3-1 m of the hotspot.6

To enable efficient monitoring of grain spoilage accurate, reliable and simple to use CO2 detectors are required. Gascard NG Gas Detector from Edinburgh Sensors provide accurate CO2 measurements along with atmospheric data, enabling grain storage managers to make decisions with confidence.

The Gascard NG Gas Detector uses a proprietary dual wavelength infrared sensor to enable the long term, reliable measurement of CO2 over a wide range of concentrations and in temperatures ranging from 0-45 °C. Measurements are unaffected by humidity (0-95% relative humidity) and the onboard pressure and temperature sensors provide real-time environmental compensation, resulting in the most accurate CO2 concentration readings.

Conclusion
Easy, fast, and accurate CO2 concentration monitoring during grain storage can provide early detection of grain spoilage, resulting in reduced grain losses, higher quality stored grain, and lower mycotoxin levels. CO2 monitoring could save millions of dollars annually in the grain production industry.4


References

  1. Kumar D, Kalita P, Reducing Postharvest Losses during Storage of Grain Crops to Strengthen Food Security in Developing Countries. Foods 6(1):8, 2017.
  2. http://www.world-grain.com/Departments/Grain-Operations/2016/7/Monitoring-CO2-in-stored-grain.aspx?cck=1 Accessed May 25th, 2017.
  3. HGCA Grain storage guide for cereals and oilseeds, third edition, available from: https://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/media/490264/g52-grain-storage-guide-3rd-edition.pdf Accessed May 25th, 2017.
  4. Maier DE, Channaiah LH, Martinez-Kawas, A, Lawrence JS, Chaves EV, Coradi PC, Fromme GA, Monitoring carbon dioxide concentration for early detection of spoilage in stored grain. Proceedings of the 10th International Working Conference on Stored Product Protection, 425, 2010.
  5. Maier DE, Hulasare R, Qian B, Armstrong P, Monitoring carbon dioxide levels for early detection of spoilage and pests in stored grain. Proceedings of the 9th International Working Conference on Stored Product Protection PS10-6160, 2006.
  6. Ileleji KE, Maier DE, Bhat C, Woloshuk CP, Detection of a Developing Hot Spot in Stored Corn with a CO2 Sensor. Applied Engineering in Agriculture 22(2):275-289, 2006.